Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CHEAPSKATE HORRORSHOW: OUIJA By John Rose

Cheapskate Horrorshow
The poster
Welcome back to today's edition of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13een For Halloween.  Today we're cranking up the Cheapskate Horrorshow to present a review of the movie Ouija.

In 2012, a movie called Battleship was released, loosely based on "the classic board game."  When Hollywood is willing to mine board games for movie ideas, you know something's wrong, but the notion was enthusiastically received among some of the suits, and rumors of movies based on such games as Monopoly and Candy Land began to circle.  (It was only because common sense prevailed that no one mentioned Scrabble: The Quest For the Triple Word Score.)  Horror movies, however, don't really have anything except... the Ouija board.  So, cue short history lesson:

"Weird" William Fuld and his equally weird sister Katherine
Ouija boards, or "talking boards" as they were once known, have been around since the 1890's, when the Spiritualist movement began to rise in America.  As Spiritualists attempted to communicate with the Great Beyond, businessman Elijah Bond had the idea to package together a planchette (a device used for automatic writing) and a board with the full alphabet and numbers on it, so that Spiritualists would have a better way of communicating.  Bond's employee William Fuld took over production and eventually started his own production of these boards under the name "Ouija," which Fuld claimed was an Egyptian word meaning "good luck" that he got from using the board to communicate with a spirit.  (Actually, it's the French word "oui" and the German word "ja," both of which mean "yes," put together to create "oui-ja.")  Fuld eventually sold the business to Parker Brothers (now owned by Hasbro, which actually has a film division who is responsible for this movie) and it wasn't long before Ouija boards were terrorizing parlor gatherings and slumber parties everywhere.

Neither the MonsterGrrls nor the Monster Shop advocate use of Ouija boards (Punkin has stated that they "don't even make a good cheese-cuttin' board"), and this movie is, in part, a whole series of reasons why. Opening with a flashback of best friends Debbie (Shelley Hening) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) playing with an Ouija, we learn Rule One of Ouija Use: do not play alone.

Debbie, who is sweet but stupid
Shortly after, we move to the present, where Debbie is seen burning an Ouija board in the fireplace.  After turning down an offer of a night out from Laine, Debbie is possessed by an evil spirit and forced to commit suicide in her home, meaning that Rule One is often the first to be broken (at least in horror movies).  Laine, not believing that Debbie committed suicide of her own volition, recruits friends Isabelle (Bianca Santos) and Trevor (Daren Kasagoff), little sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and Debbie's grieving boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith) to investigate the house, where they find the mysteriously unburnt Ouija board.  Deciding to contact Debbie for one last goodbye, Laine and crew instead contact something else, which starts leaving them messages... and not through the Ouija board.  Trying to shut things down, Laine is instead exposed to a deeper mystery involving the previous owners of the house and the Ouija board, which leads to her friends dying one by one and a race against time to solve the mystery behind Debbie's death and stop the evil spirits before everyone is dead.

Again, like Stay Alive (which we previously reviewed here), Ouija involves college-age protagonists rather
Debbie's stupid friends, trying to contact stupid dead Debbie
than teens, which seems to be a trend in horror movies of this age.  Unlike that movie, no one receives much character beyond Laine (who, though typically morose, is the heroine and cannot be one-dimensional by default), Sarah (who grinds the rebellious-teen archetype into our faces each scene, as if the audience cannot be bothered to figure it out) and victim Debbie, who seems to be an all-round good girl (which is meant to make her death much more tragic, but instead just makes you wonder why she started using the board in the first place).  The movie is not particularly unpleasant or boring, and moves briskly along plotwise, working its elements in as it goes and making the most of its mystery.  But do not expect to be overtly terrified; this movie is not Grand Guignol horror.  What you've got here instead is a nice Halloween-friendly potboiler that you can throw in the DVD player or stream after a trick-or-treat session.  (And of course, we do not advise using an Ouija board during the movie.  If you're that bored with it, turn the DVD off and play cards or something.)

Don't forget to come back for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!

EASY-BAKE COVEN: INJUN CORN By Punkin Nightshade

Hey, y'all, and welcome to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!  This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, postin to you through this here blog.  Us will be bringin you all kinds of things and first one thing and then another, so be sure you are keepin up with us.  Today I am doin the Easy-Bake Coven, and bringin you a recipe for Injun Corn.  It ain't actual Injun, but that is all right.

A lot of folks make them crispy rice cereal treats around Halloween, what is crispy rice cereal and butter and marshmallows all mixed up together.  This here is somethin like that, but it uses that peanut butter and chocolate puffed-up cereal, and it put me to mind of what Sam the scarecrow who lives down the hollow from us in Witchhazel is doin with popcorn, which is growin ears of popcorn what's already popped, and some of em even got butter.  Don't ask me how he does it cause I don't know, but anyway, this is somethin that's pretty good for your young ones at Halloween.  Harriet specially liked it cause she loves peanut butter and chocolate.

What's In It:
1/4 cup of butter or margarine (for pers'nal preference, I like butter best, and it's about half a stick)
1 package (10 1/2 ounces) mini-marshmallows
Some yellow food coloring (I like that gel colorin, cause it gives better color and don't have no funny taste)
8 cups of peanut butter and chocolate puffed corn cereal
1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces (like M&Ms), divided in half
10 lollipop sticks (you can find this at craft stores and such)
Some tan and green raffia (this here is at the craft store too)

What You Got To Do:
Line up a large bakin sheet with waxed paper and set it aside.  You won't be bakin nothin, but you'll need this to set the corn on, and the wax paper will keep it from stickin to the sheet.

Melt up your butter in a cauldron or a big heavy saucepan over low heat on the stove.  Add your marshmallows to it and stir it up till it's all melted and smooth.  Tint this with your food colorin until you get the shade of yellow you want, and then add your cereal and 1/2 cup of your chocolate pieces.  Stir this all up until it's evenly coated, then take it off the heat.

Butter or grease up your hands and divide this mixture up into 10 oblong pieces.  You got to work quick afore it cools down too much.  Stick a lolly stick about halfway into each piece, and then shape em up like ears of corn.  Place em on your bakin sheet and press the rest of your chocolate pieces into each ear.  Let em set a while, then tie or tape the raffia to the lolly sticks so it looks like a corn husk.  If you want some variation in the chocolate part, you can use the ones that's got peanuts* in em (I like those), and they is makin a lot of other kinds now, such as ones that got pretzel bits or crispy rice bits in em.  Just do as you like.

And that's it.  I shall be bringin you some more recipes as we are goin along, and I hope you try some of em and have some fun with em.  Come back round for what we shall be doin next with The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and blessings be on you!

Sincerely,
Petronella "Punkin" Nightshade
 


*SPECIAL NOTE: Some little ones has got peanut allergies, so if you are thinkin of makin these for a young ones' party, ask round the other mamas afore you do them.  We don't want nobody goin to the hospital on Halloween.  Unless it's an old abandoned hospital what used to be a mental asylum and someone's throwin a party there.  Course, that might be somethin else altogether.  --P.N.

Monday, October 26, 2015

CHEAPSKATE HORRORSHOW: REVIEW OF STAY ALIVE By John Rose

Cheapskate Horrorshow
So here we are again on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.

The poster
I admit to not being much of a video game fan.  When I was younger I had an Atari, and that was pretty cool, but video games were something I just sort of outgrew quickly, as I was more interested in making things with a computer rather than playing things on it.  With so many horror video games being released now, it makes sense that the Hollywood horror contingent would eventually turn to making a horror film about video games, which brings us rather neatly to our Cheapskate Horrorshow review of Stay Alive, a not-well-received but nonetheless interesting little film.  (Note: I viewed the Director's Cut for this review, and it is suggested that you view this one also.  I'll get to why in a minute.)

Stay Alive opens with the murder of Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia) and his roommate and roommate's girlfriend by an unseen killer, shortly after playing an unreleased video game called "Stay Alive."  This game is passed on at Loomis's funeral to his best friend and fellow gamer Hutch (Jon Foster) who plays the game in
From gamer's glory to lamely gory
a session with Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), a photographer he meets at the funeral, and his other gamer friends: the brother-sister team of foul-mouthed Phineas (Jimmi Simpson) and goth-wanna-blessed-be October (Sophia Bush), overcommitted and undersocialized gaming freak Swink (Frankie Muniz) and his boss Miller, who joins them online from his office.  They discover that the game will not start until all who are playing have recited an incantation called "The Prayer Of Elizabeth" which leads them into a mad revenant-killing spree on an old plantation.  Miller is killed in the game, and calls it a night, but shortly afterward is murdered in the exact same manner that his game character was, and cue the mayhem.  In a series of events that is purest Scooby-Doo, the gang discovers that the game is based on the exploits of the real-life murderess Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who somehow survived the centuries and turned up in Louisiana (like you do) continuing her exploits by running a girls' school/virgin-blood-donor farm.  Also, the spirit of Bathory is quite active... and coming after all of them.

Bathory, in all her bathos
Now, the reason I say watch the Director's Cut is this:  though the movie is pleasantly entertaining by-the-numbers supernatural-stalker horror (nothing you've not seen before, but nothing new under the sun either), the Director's Cut has a very crucial character and subplot that was apparently cut out of the theatrical release, which unfortunately ends up destroying any sense this movie might make if you don't see those parts.  It's entirely possible that this is why Stay Alive received rather negative reviews upon its release.  Still, if you view this cut (available from Netflix and most of the usual online sources), the movie itself turns out to be fairly decent, though a few of the subplots appear to be tacked on and the brother-sister relationship between Phin and October doesn't feel fully developed.  Stay Alive falls into the same category as more recent horror films like The Cabin In The Woods and Valentine: that of "young adult" or "college-age" horror rather than the "teenage" horror of films such as the Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th oeuvres.  Mostly this means that you can expect less mad partying and more recreational drug use between violent kills.  The killer-video-game idea, while not necessarily innovative, is serviceable, and the use of the Elizabeth Bathory legend is one that's not been seen much in horror.  Another good movie to watch with friends and popcorn.

So keep tuned to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  We'll be back soon...

Stay Alive is available from Amazon.com, Netflix, and other  video rental/online  streaming services.  The Monster Shop strictly advises viewing the Director's Cut of the film.  Check it out.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

EASY BAKE COVEN: HARVEST MOON STEW By Punkin Nightshade





Punkin's Easy-Bake Coven
Howdy there!  This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, and welcome to this year’s MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween.  Today I am doin the Easy-Bake Coven, which will be givin you some recipes and such that you can try at home for the season. 



Most mamas out there will be wantin to give their young’uns a good supper on Halloween night before everbody goes out for tricks and treats, so they won’t fill up on all that candy and everythin.  Also, some of you who is throwin Halloween parties might want a good meal to serve your guests, so I am startin off with a recipe for y’all that is a crackerjack.  This is called Harvest Moon Stew, and it’ll fill you up and keep the cold out on a chilly fall evenin.

What You Need:
Harvest Moon Stew
2 frozen chicken breasts what has been took off the bone or ain’t got no bone, and what has been skinned (deboned, boneless or skinless)
1 can of rotel tomatoes
1 can of kernel corn, with the juice (undrained)
1 can of black beans, with the juice (undrained)
1 block of cream cheese (1 16-ounce box or two 8-ounce boxes)
1 packet of dry Ranch dip mix (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of onion powder or bottled onion juice

What You Got To Do:
This here is cooked up in a crock pot, which is a contraption what works a lot like a witch’s kettle except it’s got electricity so you ain’t got to build a fire under it, and it’s a lot easier to carry around.  Start by layerin all the ingredients in the order we listed them in the crockpot, set the dial to High and let it cook for about six hours.  You can cut back your time a little if you’re usin thawed-out chicken, and as everythin starts breakin down, give it a stir now and again durin the cookin time.  This makes a real good smell when it’s cookin.

When the time is up, take the chicken out (lettin all the good stuff on it drip back in the pot) and shred it up.  Put it all back in the pot, stir it up together good, and then serve it over cooked rice or noodles.  If you’re servin this at a party you better make up a lot and stand back cause there’s goin to be a run on it.

And that is all there is to it, and my ain’t it a simple one to be startin with.  If you’re used to cookin in a crock pot you might think you ain’t done much of a much the first time you try it, but it’s a mighty good chew that tastes like you spent forever and a day on it.  Y’all be sure you come back for our next postin in The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, cause we’re startin up early this year and you know it’s always first one thing and then another with us when Halloween time rolls around.  Blessings be on you!

Sincerely,
Petronella “Punkin” Nightshade

MAD DOCTOR’S NOTE:  The MonsterGrrls give special thanks to Paul Brown, who shared this recipe with us.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

CHEAPSKATE HORRORSHOW: Review Of I SELL THE DEAD By John Rose

Cheapskate Horrorshow


Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and today Cheapskate Horrorshow is covering one of the Monster Shop’s favorite modern horror films, I Sell The Dead, the debut film of Irish director Glenn McQuaid. 
 

The poster
Though it is a modern horror film, ISTD is a period film set in the Victorian era.  The film opens on the execution day of grave robbers Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and his accomplice Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan, he of Lost fame).  While Grimes is dispatched quickly, Arthur is visited in his cell by one Father Duffy (Ron Perlman, doing a scene-chewing Irish brogue) who wishes to record a statement from Arthur to be used as a cautionary tale.


The scruffy pair, being scruffy
Arthur recounts his career of grave robbing with Willie, which begins in his youth and goes on to fruitful but stagnant fulfillment under the continual threat of blackmail from Dr. Quint (Angus “Tall Man” Scrimm of Phantasm fame), who is using the pair to gain corpses for illegal medical study.    

Things take a turn for the better when the two dig up and release a vampire, which leads to the pair deciding to become supernatural-based grave robbers, a new apprentice/love interest for Arthur, Fanny Briars (Brenda Cooney) and a confrontation with a group of vicious grave robbers known as House Murphy, consisting of disfigured assassin Valentine (Heather Bullock), insane enforcer Bulger (Alisdair Stewart) and their brutal leader Cornelius (John Speredakos).  Under orders from their unseen leader Samuel, House Murphy tries to dissuade the Blake/Grimes team, leading to an eventual confrontation over a shipment of crated undead… and things go mightily awry, because zombies.


All in an evening's work
The cast responds to news of a possible ISTD reboot
I Sell The Dead is a fast-moving and funny movie which recalls the days of Hammer Films’ period shockers, while at the same time being a loving sendup of same.  For a low-budget B-picture, it seems to get the Victorian period right simply by not trying very hard; all the sets, props and costuming have a good feel of hard use and squalor rather than high polish.  Sight gags and anachronistic humor abound; one standout bit of dialogue in particular involves Arthur’s sampling of a new invention called the sandwich (“it’s genius”).  Monaghan and Fessenden are the perfect pair of seedy but sympathetic rascals, and the assorted Murphy clan provide a nice punch of comic-book villainy (helped in no small way by the use of comic-art illustrations in their introductory scene).  The DVD even includes a mini-comic that tells the movie’s story, and special features include commentaries with Monaghan, Fessenden and director McQuaid, plus visual effects and making-of reels.  Give this one a try for Halloween viewing if you want something more modern yet still reminiscent of horror’s gory-glory days.


Be sure to return for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and don’t forget to tell the others…

I Sell The Dead is available from Amazon.com and most video rental/online streaming services.  Check it out.

INITIUM: WE'RE BACK, AND ALL APOLOGIES

So last year we didn't finish our Thir13en For Halloween.  We got sidetracked.  We got tired.  We got seriously misled by person or persons, and then we were dumped like a cheap latex corpse in a cardboard coffin.  We barely survived.  And Halloween was almost ruined.

But we are back.  And this year, things will be different.  And you'll get some extra posts along with our traditional Thir13en, to make up for our being led down the primrose path.

And, to those who misled us:  We may not have the rights to Halloween, but we definitely have the franchise.  If you would steal away our happiness and our energy and our celebration of our Ghost Wonderful Time Of The Year, just remember one thing:

Halloween is coming.  And so are we.

RUN.

Here we come...
 

Friday, October 24, 2014

CHEAPSKATE HORRORSHOW: RESURRECTING THE EVIL DEAD By John Rose


Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and this is your Mad Doctor.  Today we're introducing what we hope will become a new regular feature on MonsterGrrls.com: Cheapskate Horrorshow, featuring reviews and overviews of favorite horror films including those in the categories of the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky.  Today we'll start with a film that was remade recently (much to our consternation): Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Something's in the cellar with Cheryl
I can't fully explain to you why I love The Evil Dead. It's a gorefest of the first order: a violent, insane, raving, incredibly ghoulish film with much blood and horror, which usually isn't my cup of tea. But there is something about this film that makes it one of my favorite horror movies. Perhaps it's the simplicity of its story. Perhaps it's the fact that its characters were different from other horror movie characters of the day, in that they were not just cannon fodder; instead, you cared about what happened to them even after the mayhem started. Perhaps it was the cool stop-motion effects shown at the end, when all the zombies started decomposing really fast. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I grew up in the eighties, where serial killers, slashers and gore were the order of the day in horror movies, meaning that as a committed fan of classic horror and Universal's Big Seven (Frank, Drac, Wolfie, Mummy, The Bride, Phantom, Invisible Man and Blacky Lagoon), I was usually left out in the cold or forced to watch the same stuff others were watching. Yeah, I saw Freddy and Jason and a good many of their sequels just like the rest of you, but it doesn't mean I liked them. I was often left unsatisfied by these movies, or feeling as though something was generally missing. Like fun, for one thing.

Raimi and Tapert: A fruitful partnership
But The Evil Dead is different. For one thing, it was made on probably the shoestring budget to end all ($375,000; not even pocket change these days by Hollywood standards) by people who had very little idea of how to do some aspects of moviemaking correctly, in the worst conditions possible. The film's director and star, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, had been friends since their youth and had made Super-8 films together. In college they teamed with friend Robert Tapert (who is now Mr. Lucy Lawless and head of Renaissance Pictures, producers of Xena, Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and... The Evil Dead movies), and after making a short film, Within The Woods, they were able to secure funds to create The Evil Dead. Filming began in a small cabin in the woods of Tennessee and continued over the next four years. The madness of this process has now become legend: during the time it took to make this film, many of the cast and crew abandoned the production, forcing Raimi to use stand-in actors as replacements.

Upon its completion, the film struggled to find distribution due to its graphic violence and gore, and the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17 rating. It was widely banned in several countries including Ireland and Germany, but a showing at Cannes caught the eyes of both Stephen King and John Bloom. The latter, in his persona of drive-in-movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs, promoted the film with foam-mouthed aggression, and King gave it a glowing review in the November 1982 issue of Twilight Zone. It has since gone on to become a cult classic and a direct inspiration for many of today's horror filmmakers, sort of on a par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though, in both production values, story and character development, Evil Dead is the better of the two).

The Book
The story of The Evil Dead is pretty simple: five young people go on a weekend jaunt to the woods, planning to camp in a cabin. Upon arriving, they discover a tape recorder and some archaeological artifacts, one of which is an odd-looking book with a screaming face for a cover. Playing the tape, the group hears the recorded journal of a professor, which explains that the book is Norturum Demondo, an ancient Sumerian text with rituals for raising the dead. Of course, this journal features a recitation of some of the book's incantations, which is never a good idea. (Handily, it also tells how to get rid of what is let loose by your messing around with Stuff You Weren't Meant To Know—but more on that in a minute.)
Ash (Bruce Campbell) gets ready for business

Cue supernatural mayhem. One by one, various terrible things happen to the five. A girl is driven out into the woods and attacked by the woods, then possessed. The others become possessed by turns, and with their souls destroyed by the evil forces that have been unleashed by the tape, the resulting corpses are then reanimated into zombies—and not ordinary zombies, either. These are not the doddering brain-hungry zombies of Night Of The Living Dead, or even the fast rage-fueled hyperdrive models of 28 Days Later; instead they are lucid, squirming, scrabbling, ranting demon-possessed zombies who want someone's soul on a platter. The survivors of the first initial assault slowly realize that the rest of the information on the tape is true; to kill these zombies, the corpses have to be dismembered completely before burial. One by one, the group perishes until only one is left alive—Ash (Bruce Campbell), the nice guy of the group, who spends the rest of the movie being driven bananas by the demons, and must survive until daybreak.

This is probably part of why I can get onboard with The Evil Dead. It has a supernatural element, which is something that is missing from most modern horror. Many of today's horror films talk a good game about paranoia, terrorism, technology and other fears of today being the driving motive of their films' plots, but more often than not the plots seem to be constructed around the phrase shit happens, which in my opinion makes for lousy filmmaking. To suggest that there is something bigger than humans, such things as true good and true evil, or that we may not be the only beings in this universe can usually get you laughed out of the horror show these days.

Evil Dead doesn't buy into this notion, which makes it, the Re-Animator films and most of the Full Moon/Charles Band/Empire Pictures oeuvre the only horror films I could really get behind in the eighties. These movies don't rely on some colorful serial killer/anti-hero; instead, they're about monsters. This movie is satisfying to me because the evil dead really are evil dead, instead of being nihilistically charming comic-book villains who crack jokes and caper about, or silent unstoppable killing machines without a grain of character. If the zombies in The Evil Dead got into a fight with the Living Dead zombies they'd not only win, they'd also eat the losers.

And that's it for our first Cheapskate Horrorshow.  Join us tomorrow on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween for more discussion of mayhem and monsters, including that one behind you.  Made you look!